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Generation Scotland

As part of our World Mental Health Day Blog Series, Sarah Robertson reflects on the need to listen to the voices of young people in health research and shares the new sign up process for those aged 12-15 to get involved in Scotland's largest family health study, Generation Scotland.


As we approach World Mental Health Day 2023 we need to recognise that young people in Scotland and across the world are facing unprecedented challenges, from the lasting effects of the covid pandemic, the climate crisis, and rising living costs being amongst many. These all impact young people’s physical and mental health in ways that have not been experienced by previous generations. In particular there is hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear how the mental health needs of young people are not being met. Yet we don’t fully know the reasons behind this increase, nor how to support them. This picture makes it all the more important that young people’s voices are heard when shaping future health research, including those young people who are not traditionally included in research.

However, this picture is at odds with the fact that young people are under-represented in research. In our own study, Generation Scotland - the largest family health study in Scotland - less than 1.3% of our current volunteers are under 20 years. If not addressed, we and other organisations are missing the huge potential for them to take part and shape health research for their future, and for future generations to come.

At Generation Scotland we are continually looking at unique ways to include young people in our decision making and rights-based approaches in order to overhaul our systems based on young people’s guidance. We recognise that to modernise and engage with the next generation, we must be open to learning from young people as the “experts” through true participation. Staying true to this principle we worked with young people to address and improve our sign up processes….leading to ground-breaking results!

We are now delighted to announce that we have changed the way that young people aged 12-15 can now sign up to take part in our health research and are now the first longitudinal study in the UK to welcome this age group to join remotely online without their parent or guardian needing to join first. This ensures that young people have more ownership over their own health decisions, which in turn will hopefully help scientists and researchers to learn and improve young people’s mental health.

We will continue to listen and evolve but we desperately need more people to join Generation Scotland, from young to “young at heart” Anyone staying in Scotland from the age of 12 years is welcome to join. Please click here to find out more Generation Scotland. You can also follow Generation Scotland on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn and Youtube.

Sarah Robertson and the Generation Scotland Team

Biography Sarah Robertson recently joined the University of Edinburgh and is the Youth Engagement Lead for Generation Scotland. She previously worked for YouthLink Scotland (the National Youth Work Agency) as an Operational Manager with various remits over time including: Mental Health, Health & Wellbeing, Equality & Inclusion, Events & Networks, Training, Youth Participation, Participatory Democracy, Participatory Budgeting, Co-production and Youth Voice. Sarah studied Community Education at Moray House 25 years ago and was a founding member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. She is currently an active member of the Rural Mental Health Forum. She founded the National Health & Wellbeing in Youth Work Network, Glasgow Youth Work Network and previously sat of the Scottish Government Child & Young Person Mental Health Joint Delivery Board and task groups. Sarah is particularly interested in partnership working and how young people can meaningfully engage in research leading to change.

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